Studies frequently point to caseloads and workloads as key factors influencing worker turnover and retention. Workers need to be able to spend time with the children and families on their caseloads in order to accurately assess risk; identify needs, strengths, and resources; develop an appropriate case plan; and work with the family to achieve it. Determining the right number and types of cases, assigning cases appropriately to staff, and reviewing and adjusting the types of tasks assigned to workers in addition to their direct work with families are all ingredients for ensuring a manageable caseload and workload for staff. The following resources discuss the role of caseload and workload in workforce retention and child welfare outcomes.
Council on Accreditation (COA)
Includes standards that must be met for human services agencies to become COA accredited. Standards regarding caseload and workload within child welfare and other agencies are included. Follow these steps to find the COA caseload/workload standard:
1) Scroll to the middle of the page until you see the option to choose "Standards for Private Organizations" or "Standards for Public Agencies" this is dependent on which type of agency standards you are looking for.
2) Click "Service Standards" on the right-hand side of the page and navigate to the type of work you are looking for a standard for. Click on its name (i.e., child and family services, case management, domestic violence services, respite care, youth psychosocial services).
Cost Savings From Reasonable Child Welfare Workloads (PDF - 246 KB)
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Department of Research and Collective Bargaining Services (2016)
Shares the costs, financially and otherwise, of child welfare workloads and savings from addressing them through a two-page research brief.
Direct Service Workers’ Recommendations for Child Welfare Financing and System Reform (PDF - 441 KB)
Hughes & Lay (2012)
Child Welfare League of America (CWLA)
Outlines policy recommendations synthesized from a survey completed by child welfare professionals. Most notable to caseload and workload is the table on page 5 that provides the CWLA Caseload Standards for the different types of child welfare work. These standards are often cited by those discussing caseload and workload; however, it is important to keep in mind that CWLA is in the process of updating the standards. More about their caseload and workload standards can be found in the appropriate service category in the webpage, Standards of Excellence for Child Welfare Services.
How Can Child Welfare Leaders Safely Decrease Investigation Backlogs?
Casey Family Programs (2020)
Provides examples of contributing factors to case backlogs and presents strategies to approach and sustain backlog reductions. The resource includes real-life examples of how agencies across the country have successfully worked through their backlogs.
NASW Standards for Social Work Practice in Child Welfare (PDF - 135 KB)
National Association of Social Workers (NASW) (2013)
Provides guidelines and strategies for child welfare professionals that establish expectations for their work by following the NASW Code of Ethics.The resource specifically discusses caseload and workload standards. Also available: NASW Standards for Social Work Case Management (PDF - 195 KB)
Recent Research to Build Knowledge of the Child Welfare Workforce
Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development (2019)
Provides a better understanding of child welfare worker turnover and highlights strategies to address it.
The Relationship Between Substance Use Indicators and Child Welfare Caseloads (PDF - 390 KB)
Ghertner, Baldwin, Crouse, Radel, & Waters (2018)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
Analyzes the connection between parental substance use and increased caseloads for child welfare workers.